Friday, May 18, 2007

On Reading

This is the first paragraph of Dana Gioia's wonderful essay Lonely Impulse of Delight: One Reader's Childhood:
Every reader has two lives—one public, the other secret. The public life is the one visible to our teachers, friends, and families, though none of them ever sees it fully. It consists of our homes and houses, schools and schoolmates, friends and enemies, lovers, colleagues, and competitors. This is the realm of experience universally known as real life. But every true reader has a secret life, which is equally intense, complex, and important. The books we read are no different from the people we meet or the cities we visit. Some books, people, or places hardly matter, others change our lives, and still others plant some idea or sentiment that influences our futures. No one else will ever read, reread, or misread the same books in the same way or in the same order. Our inner lives are as rich and real as our outer lives, even if they remain mostly unknowable to others. Perhaps that is why books matter so much. They serve as our intimate companions. Some books guide us. Others lead us astray. A few rescue or redeem us. All of them confide something of the wonder, joy, terror, and mystery of being alive.
It's really a fine essay. I love it when authors reminisce about books and reading, don't you?

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